The coup leader blamed for destabilizing Mali several years ago is now standing trial on charges related to the killings of former presidential guard members.

Amadou Haya Sanogo was arrested three years ago after a mass grave was found containing the remains of 21 slain red berets. If found guilty, Sanogo could face the death penalty.

Sanogo went on trial Wednesday in the town of Sikasso along with 17 others.

Sagara Bintou Maiga, president of a group representing the victims' families, said they want to see justice done after waiting years for a trial.

Outside a group of young people held photos of Sanogo in a show of support for the onetime military strongman.

Sanogo seized power in March 2012 and later handed over power to a civilian transitional government.